- “I’ve got your back.”
- “I’ll bail you outta jail, if I’m not in there with you.”
- “I’ll be your shoulder to cry on.”
And that’s all great. We can rally around our ability to be there for each other when the shit hits the fan, so to speak. But Shelly Gable, a University of California psychology researcher wants us to celebrate our successes, too. And I agree with her.
Gable was one of three researchers who conducted a study that thumbed its nose at the many, many studies determining how negative events impact a relationship. Likely “thumbed its nose” is a bit strong, but you get the idea – they were going against the grain.
They measured the well-being of 79 couples, and then asked them to take turns discussing positive and negative events. At the end of the study, discussions about positive events had a long lasting, positive impact on their well-being, and their “relationship itself becomes stronger.” What they were learning to do was create “relationship resources, such as commitment, satisfaction, intimacy, and love” that the couple could rely on in future.
Well, duh, right?
We all know that sharing good news feels good. Except that having done my own empirical study (otherwise know as life), I’ve noticed that we tend to focus more on negative events than positive. For example, how many times have you dropped everything to run over to a friend’s house because they were just dumped or lost a job or some other crappy thing happened? And now how many times have you dropped everything and run over because something really good happened? Fewer times, I bet.
Why is that? Why do we race over to give them a hug, but not to high five them? Why, when someone tells us bad news, do we ask to hear all about it, but when they tell us good news, we think saying “great job / good for you / congratulations” is enough of a response?
Why are we expected to endure our success alone, but our hardships together?
High five them, damnit
So here’s the deal: the next time a friend shares good news with you, dig in. Ask how this good news came about, what they did to achieve this success, how they feel about it, and if at all possible, race over and high five them.
And when you have good news to share, don’t settle for a quickie congrats – tell your story in full glorious detail. You’ll be building a stronger, more successful relationship, and you'll be a better friend. And that in itself is worthy of a high five.
Want to read more about the study?
Read the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology article “Will You Be There for Me When Things Go Right? Supportive Responses to Positive Event Disclosures.” There is some really interesting stuff in there about how the best way to support your partner is with “invisible support,” in other words supporting your partner without their noticing. Tricky. http://coachingtowardhappiness.com/pdf/WillYouBeThereForMeWhenThingsGoRight.pdf
For fun, I looked up the origin of high-fiving and it appears to be a baseball thing, or a volleyball thing, or a World War 2 thing (though it was a low five then) or a basketball thing, with Magic Johnson claiming he started it. Truth be told, my brother and I started it and we’re keeping it cool, too. : )